Board searches for new superintendent

MIFFLINTOWN The Juniata County School District Board had a meet the candidates’ night on Thursday to introduce the community, staff and teachers to the two possible superintendent candidates.

The first of the two candidates, Keith D. Yarger, spoke first about what he would like to see happen within the school district. First he outlines some of his qualifications, saying he is currently working on his Ph.D., and naming some of the places he has worked.

“I have experience teaching both first and sixth grade students in both a regular setting and co-teaching setting with inclusion, which not only had children of all levels, but also with special needs kids in the same classroom,” Yarger said. “I have also had experience with school consolidation and proposal writing, the school I did this with is still a model school for these experiences.”

Yarger was previously the superintendent of a district that did have multiple high schools, junior high schools and elementary schools. He said the scenery is something that has drawn him to the area and this job.

For his plan, Yarger said his goals include talking to students, teachers and the community to gain a better understanding of the school district and the surrounding community.

“The purpose of this transition plan is to provide the school board, staff, students and community with a series of strategies and activities that will guide my assimilation the role of superintendent of the school district,” Yarger said. “My main goal is to provide the best support to the students to make them the best they can be. I do have an open door policy with everyone who would like to voice concerns.”

His plan has two stages, entry and development of the district. Yarger said his entry stage would be dominated by listening, communicating and learning sessions, with meetings to help understand the district. The second stage would be presented to the board in February, with knowledge gained during the entry plan, and will detail the findings of those meetings.

“This goes back to having a flow of communication between everyone in the district,” Yarger said.

One of the goals of Yarger’s plan is to increase the abilities of the students and enabling them to succeed through new programs and analyses of current programs. Yarger said he will be visible to students, talking to them in the classroom or lunch room, along with talking to the parents in a similar manner. He also said that having community involvement is a key to the success of any district.

“I think it is important to have the community involved in the school,” Yarger said. “Whether you have kids here or not you, as a community, are still living here and deserve to know what is going on.”

Yarger said the school district is unique because there are eight elementary schools, which show the importance of elementary education to the community. He also said he is well versed in finding additional funds in new areas that he would like to bring to the district.

The second of the candidates, Penny S. Lenig-Zerby, prior to working as a teacher full-time, was employed as a nurse, and still works as a nurse when needed. Zerby explained that she taught at Midd-West School District for nine and a half years and has worked in the surrounding communities including, acting as principal in the Selinsgrove Area School District.

“Throughout my years as an administrator, I have worked on many grants and other programs that have benefited the school, including a fit program which helped the district to lose a combined 700 pounds,” Zerby said. “I have also worked to help balance budgets.”

Zerby said one of the things she knows about the school district is that there is a distance academically between the elementary schools, and she would like to find out what is being done at some schools versus others to help make the learning more cohesive throughout all of the elementary schools.

She also talked about exploring possible cost saving measures which include shared services and green initiatives. Zerby explained that her entry plan includes the community, administrators, teachers and students to make the environment conducive to learning.

“Another thing that needs to happen is motivation for the students,” Zerby said. “Students, teachers and administrators need to be challenged to help move the district forward.”

Zerby said you are never done educating children, and that she believes the district should constantly be evaluating; looking at what could be made better in all aspects of the school.

“Some of your buildings are scoring very high academically,” Zerby said. “However there are disparities between some of the schools that is visible in your test scores. My goal is to make the success of the students my number one priority.”

Zerby said she has been selective where she has applied throughout her career, and believes that the Juniata School District shares similar ideals and has a small town community feel that is something she strives for in her life.

After each candidate spoke the community had the opportunity to give feedback, through a clicker system which allowed seeing what the make-up of the audience was and how they felt about each candidate. This was to help gauge the community response to each candidate to help the school board in their final decision.

The board is looking for a new superintendent after Richard Musselman resigned to become the superintendent at Midd-West School District earlier this summer.

A representative of the Tuscarora Intermediate Unit, which is aiding the district in the superintendent search, said it is possible the school board will make a decision on the matter at its next meeting.